Personal Insights Into a Conversation with God


 
This week I have been at Moody Founder’s Week in Chicago. I told my son Nate, who attends Moody, that this would be on my list of conferences while he is in school here. We had been previously, which is one of the reasons he chose the school. This is a true church conference. While it is not my typical conference, I have enjoyed hearing the challenging messages in a more traditional setting.

Getting out of town always provides me with time to develop new thoughts. Often I get into such a routine at home, that I don’t stop to just reflect, ponder, think and dream. I have to be alone, totally removed from my normal comfort zone it seems to really slow down enough to reflect. Yesterday, between sessions, I went for a long run along the Lake Shore Drive. (This is my favorite city in which to run. I posted about that once HERE.) About half way through the run, as I was talking to God, it seemed He impressed on my heart that there are new challenges He wants me to consider.

While I didn’t have a clue what this could mean at this point in our conversation, here is the prayer I prayed (as best as I can remember praying while running):

“God, I don’t want to possess a man-made vision…mine or anyone else’s. I don’t want a hand-me-down version of Your plan…I want to hear from You…I want Your vision…Your presence…Your glory. Protect my heart from wandering or being attracted to anything less than 100% of Your will… God, as You lead me, I will follow…”

It was a great heart check. The rest of the day I spent trying to unpack some of where I sense Him encouraging me to go and do. I don’t have all the answers, and from experience I may not for weeks, but I’m starting to understand some things. A couple thoughts relative to Grace Community Church I will actually share over the next couple days on this blog.  More than anything, however, I am committed to following His heart. That’s always proven to be a good thing in my life!

How do you get your heart on track with God? Do you do it with people or away from people?  Where do you go to do your best reflecting.

Please share your thoughts here for all readers to enjoy.

10 Questions with Leader Carlos Whittaker/LosWhit (Soul City Church)

Carlos Whittaker is one of the most creative and inspiring leaders in today’s church culture. Carlos also has one of the most read blogs among Christians. Carlos is an architect of visions and his current work is with the launch this Spring of Soul City Church in Chicago. (I wrote about Soul City’s Jarrett Stevens HERE.) You can follow LosWhit on Twitter HERE. His newest musical work has been at the top of iTunes since it was released a week ago. Listen and buy HERE.

Here are 10 questions with Carlos Whittaker.

1. When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

Nope, wanted to play for the Falcons baby!

2. What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

I was a roller skate prepare man, Patience.

3. Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

-My dad, he’s my dad!

4. Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

- Crucial Conversations… It was a hard read. Very boring, but has changed me and how I speak to people.

5. What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

-Creative, last minute, intense

6. What is your greatest strength in leadership?

-I can connect to people

7. What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

-procrastination.

8. What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Say no

9. What is one misconception about your position you think people in your church may have?

That we are perfect

10. If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Don’t try to imitate another leader style, as much as finding your true leadership style.

Thanks again for following these interviews. Comments are appreciated and will keep me searching for more.

An Important Experiment This Sunday with Grace Community Church

We have a great experiment this week at Grace Community Church. I’m one that chooses to look for the positive in every negative situation, so I really want to see what I can grasp from this opportunity.

Because our church meets in a school, today I had to write our first email to the church announcing that services are cancelled Sunday due to inclement weather. Here is the email:

Grace family,

Due to impending weather, Grace Community Church will not have services this Sunday, January 31, 2010. As this is written there is no snow falling, but the weather forecast is currently very threatening for our area, so the school system, in a precautionary measure, has cancelled all school activities for the weekend, which obviously impacts us. We are sorry for this inconvenience, but thankful for the advance notice and understanding of the need to protect the well-being of large numbers of people.

Please take this opportunity to enjoy some family time, rest, and spend some time reading the Bible and praying on Sunday. A few notes for those of interest:
*If you had planned to invite a friend, have them come with you next week. We will launch our new series for adults and children next week.
*If you normally give to the church or other causes we support, you may make those donations online (http://www.gcomchurch.com/give), mail them to Grace Community Church, PO Box 3136, Clarksville, TN 37043, or save them for next Sunday.
*If you have prayer needs or other items to communicate to the staff, please send them to office@gcomchurch.com
*Please pay special attention to the Grace website (http://www.gcomchurch.com) and the Grace Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/gcomchurch) for announcements you would have received Sunday. You might also want to make sure you have joined the Grace Facebook group, where we often send emails.)

Thank you for your faithfulness. Be safe and we look forward to seeing you next week.

Grace staff

Now here is the experiment. Will it make a difference? Will it matter to anyone that Grace Community Church will not meet this Sunday? Sure, it’s just one week, but what if it were every week? Would that matter to our community? Are we making enough of a difference that it would matter if we were no longer here?

What do you think? Has Grace made a difference in your life or in the lives of others you know? Please share a word, sentence, paragraph or story with us here on the blog where others may enjoy them. (If you don’t attend Grace Community Church, but want to give a shout out to the difference your church is making, feel free to share.)  Your comments will help me stay positive, because I’m really going to miss my friends at Grace this week, but will also be a blessing for others to read your stories.

Struggling With What To Say In Prayer?


 
I received a great email of concern this week on an issue I think others may have as a concern as well.  I know I have asked questions like this personally at times.

The email said, “I believe in prayer, but I never know what to say.  What if I say the wrong thing?  Does that make sense?”

Here was my answer:

Yes, it makes perfect sense, but I wonder if you are making prayer more difficult than it is intended to be.  Consider for a moment that God is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  What if God were a person, who is actually in the room with you, that knows you better than anyone has ever known you, that would never betray you, so you could trust Him with anything, that loves you unconditionally whether you do the right things or not, and that always has your best interests at heart…could you talk to that person?

That’s who He is…now talk….

Do you ever struggle with what to say in your prayers? Could it be you are treating prayer as more of a religious formality than a conversation with someone with whom you have a relationship?

What tips can you offer to help others in their prayer life?    What questions about prayer do you have?

5 Principles I Have Learned About Failure (Sermon)

This past Sunday’s message was about failure. Although we had this message in the series planned for months and we spend considerable time in prayer about what to speak about each week, I never imagined how sensitive this topic would be. I have been inundated with stories this week of how failure has impacted people’s lives. (And to think I thought it was just my story…)

If you are dealing with failure, I hope you will consider watching this message.

As a teaser, here are five principles I have learned about failure:

Not everyone is talking about you….even when it feels that way…

Your identity because of the failure may never fully go away…

God loves you more than you can imagine, even when you fail…

Forgiving yourself may be the most difficult thing…

The best days of your life may be after the failure…not before…
if you allow God to shape the rest of your story…

Would you allow your story to help others? What’s one thing you have learned from failure? (Please share it as a comment on the blog, even if you are reading this on Facebook, to allow others to read your thoughts.)

The problem with desiring normal…

I talk with people consistently that are looking for some sense of normality in their life. Often they express that sentiment by saying something such as, “I just wish life could be normal for me sometime.” Have you ever said that statement?

What I have come to understand from experience is that life never rests long before some new highs or lows appear. The problem with desiring normal is that normal seldom looks like we expect normal to look. I’m wondering if normal may be more our reaction to life, than the circumstances we experience in life.

Perhaps the better goal is to learn to balance our lives amidst difficulties, good and bad times, triumph and tragedy, and the feast or famine the world in which we live tends to experience. In fact, I wonder if learning how to balance our emotions between the extremes isn’t the normality we are seeking, rather than periods where everything is calm. When we learn to live in the joy of every moment, normal may seem more attainable.  (Consider what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13)

What has your experience taught you? How would you define the “normal” life?  Is your life “normal”?

10 Questions With Leader Wayne Elsey: Soles4Souls Ministry

One would have to be living under a rock (or a shoe) not to have heard of Soles4Souls Ministry in recent months. Soles4Souls has a simple concept: they get shoes and give them away. You can read more about their history HERE. This is one ministry that went to work immediately and is making a huge impact in the Haiti disaster.

Grace Community Church recently became a collection location for the ministry, but I thought it would be good to get to know the man behind the vision.  Wayne Elsey is apparently an incredible leader.  The proof is in the growth of the ministry.  You can read more about Wayne HERE and follow him on Twitter HERE.

More importantly to Wayne, to get involved to the cause, click HERE.

Here are 10 questions with leader Wayne Elsey:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

My goal was to get out of school, leave home and do something. I was not the best student and did not like school or my home life.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

When I was 12 I was the kid over the summer that did anything. The most opposite I have ever done was scoop dog poop at a dog show. Candidly, that taught me a lesson that I am not too good to do anything – I feel the same way today.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

One person is hard to drill down but there are two people that motivated me to excel – One was my English teacher that told me that I can do anything I wanted to, it was all up to me and that I was in control of me. This encouragement was needed and I have not forgotten. Candidly, she made a huge difference in me shaping my character and desire to succeed. Two would be Bill Hybels – I have read every book he has ever written and watched him in many settings. This guy is a firm leader that gets things done. It is one thing to talk but doing is something totally different.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

Good to Great

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

energetic, creative, results

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Role model – leader – I do what I expect.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Too hands on

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Empower people more. In my current role as CEO, I have to empower people and back off. I am getting better everyday about this as I develop the right people.

What is one misconception about your position you think people may have?

I have an easy job.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Just do it. Put your mouth into action with your hands. Do not just talk but do. Work hard, work smart and surround yourself with the best people forming a great team.

Catalyst One Day Chicago: Will I See You There?

I believe strongly that organizations grow best when they are teachable; open to insight from other leaders. One of the best resources to help our team grow has been the annual Catalyst Conferences. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend with our team in Atlanta this year. That’s why I’m so excited about the opportunity of a Catalyst One Day Conference in Chicago. It takes place March 25th, 2010, at Willow Creek Community Church. Featuring powerful messages from Craig Groeschel and Andy Stanley, including a candid conversation between the two on stage, this promises to be an amazingly helpful day.

The focus of the day is MOMENTUM. What is it? Why is it important? How do you get it? How do you keep it? Best prices can be obtained by January 28th, so act now.

Watch the video preview then click HERE for more information or HERE to register you and/or your team.

Will I see you there?

Catalyst One Day from Catalyst on Vimeo.

Has Your Direction Stolen Your Identity?

We are in a series called Identity Theft at Grace Community Church. There are some things in life that have stolen from us the people we thought we would be. Last Sunday I spoke about how the direction of our life, or lack thereof, can be the culprit in stealing our identity. Have you lost your way? Watch this message to help you get back on the right path.

For more thoughts on having a life plan, click HERE.

How Do You Measure Spiritual Growth?

I meet many people frustrated with their spiritual life. Often I find they are measuring the wrong things. They tend to measure their day-to-day activities, rather than their progress over time. My intent with this post is to encourage you to measure outputs, not inputs when evaluating your spiritual life.

If you measure only inputs of your spiritual growth…such as…

  • How many times you read your Bible
  • How many minutes a day you pray
  • How many people you invite to church

You’ll often feel like a failure in your spiritual life.

If you measure the outputs of your spiritual growth…such as…

  • Are you becoming more patient?
  • Are you learning to love people that are hard to love?
  • Do you desire to be more like Christ today than you once desired?

You can discern if you are really growing spiritually.

It is much harder to put numbers on intangibles, but deep down you will usually know the answer.  When I try to measure the inputs of my faith, I grow disappointed, because it seems I can never do enough. When I measure the outputs, the results of my faith, I can truly determine if I am growing to be more like Christ. (Thankfully, I can see huge progress over the course of my life.)

Discipline helps develop spiritual fruit, and I believe in practicing private disciplines that help grow your faith (inputs), but the discipline is not the goal, the fruit is the goal (outputs). Jesus didn’t say His followers would be known by the number of disciplines they can keep. Jesus said we would be known by our fruit.

What would you add to the list…what input do you tend to measure to judge if you are growing spiritually? More importantly, how are you doing over the course of time?